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Title: Inside the snake pit : an ecological model of witness vulnerability
Author: Kerr, N.
ISNI:       0000 0004 5370 5514
Awarding Body: Queen's University Belfast
Current Institution: Queen's University Belfast
Date of Award: 2014
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The aim of this interdisciplinary thesis is to deconstruct the concept of witness vulnerability in the Northern Ireland criminal justice system. Despite a vast amount of quantitative and qualitative research, the scientific understanding of witness vulnerability is limited. This study has made an original the 'social scientific understanding of witness vulnerability in two ways: first, by applying an ecological approach and second, by the creation of the theoretical Ecological Model of Witness Vulnerability (EMWV). This thesis fulfilled three objectives: the first was to critically review legislation, . academic and policy literature which revealed that the legal definition of vulnerable witnesses is too exclusive and ignores a range of variables that may influence witness vulnerability. For the purposes of this thesis, witness vulnerability was defined as the outcome of the dynamic interaction between a range of psychological, social and criminal justice variables which can diminish a witness's capacity to provide their best evidence in a criminal trial. Second, over a 24 month period, courthouse observations and 81 semi-structured interviews with victims, complainants, witnesses, key staff and . volunteers explored the experiences and perceptions of witness vulnerability. Interviews were . analysed inductively using Thematic Data Analysis which identified the key themes and patterns. Third, drawing on literature and primary data, the EMWV, which identified the factors influencing witness vulnerability, was created. It is concluded that special measures are being regularly offered to young witnesses and rape victims but not vulnerable adults who continue to face structural obstacles in the criminal justice system. The Liverpool City Council Investigations Support Unit is presented as a proposed solution to the problems experienced by vulnerable adults at trial. It is recommended that the Department of Justice gives serious consideration to the establishment of a specialist support service for vulnerable adults in Northern Ireland.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available